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Archive for December 2013

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The Innovation Edge

Big Idea 2014: Goodbye Silicon Valley, Hello Silicon Cities

December 31st 2013

NYC fashion district

As the United States slowly emerges from the Great Recession, led by our cities and metropolitan areas, a remarkable shift is occurring in the spatial geography of innovation.

For the past fifty years, the landscape of innovation has been epitomized by regions like Silicon Valley — suburban corridors of spatially isolated corporate campuses, accessible only by car, with little emphasis on the quality of life or on integrating work, housing and recreation. That model now appears outdated.

Innovative companies and talented workers are revaluing the physical assets and attributes of cities. A new spatial geography of innovation is emerging and, in 2014, it will reach a critical mass worthy of recognition and replication. Read more ..

The Pentagon on Edge

5 Lessons for the Pentagon from 2013

December 31st 2013

Pentagon aerial shot

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey asked Congress this year: "What do you want your military to do?"

The takeaway for defense leaders is that policymakers want to fund a defense budget that does less but a military that is just as engaged around the world, ready to act when needed and fully capable when ordered to fight and win.

1. Sequestration's slow burn will continue, even with the recent budget deal

While the recent budget deal signed into law will soften the blow of sequestration's steep cuts in fiscal year 2014, it does not do away with them altogether. As predicted, policymakers opted for defense cuts that decline in a graduated, staircase manner rather than off a cliff. But the defense budget will still fall over the next decade. The budget simply gives Pentagon leaders more time to make judicious decisions about tradeoffs. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Train Transporting Oil Derails in North Dakota

December 31st 2013

Oil well

A train carrying crude oil derailed in North Dakota, forcing thousands of residents to flee the possible toxic fumes on Tuesday.

The BNSF Railway Co. train caused a series of explosions after derailing, but none of the train's crew was injured, according to reports from the the railway company, Bloomberg reports.

Residents of Casselton, N.D., were told to evacuate early Tuesday morning. The train derailed Monday afternoon, but as of 9:20 p.m. Monday 21 railways were ablaze.

“There is still a small blaze out there,” Haaland said at about 4 a.m. on Tuesday. “We are waiting for sunrise to evaluate whether they will go in and extinguish the fire, or if it will burn itself out.” Read more ..

Inside Politics

Tea Party Faces 2014 Challenge

December 31st 2013

Vote Buttons

The Tea Party is facing a huge test in 2014 as establishment Republicans and business groups try to wrestle back control of the GOP.

Grassroots conservative groups have ruled the roost of the House GOP conference since Republicans won back the majority in 2010 but are now under attack from forces within their own party.

In December, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) repeatedly ripped into outside conservative groups over their tactics during the government shutdown fight, which he described as “ridiculous.”

Allies of Boehner, who has repeatedly struggled to lead his conference while outside groups and conservative senators vied with him for influence, feel optimistic they’ve emerged stronger from the last year. Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

Laser Scanner Detects Malaria Infections in Seconds

December 31st 2013

mosquito biting

Researchers have developed the first non-invasive method of detecting malaria infection using a laser beam scanner. The painless test appears to be 100 percent accurate and does not require using any blood.

Currently, the gold standard of malaria testing is examining a blood smear under the microscope for evidence of the deadly parasite. A diagnosis requires trained technicians, expensive equipment and time, things that are not always available in poorer and more remote parts of the world.

But so-called “vapor nanobubble” technology would eliminate the need to draw any blood. It only requires an individual to place a finger on a laser device, according to Dmitri Lopotko, a researcher with the department of biochemistry and cell biology at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

“We shine a very short light pulse through the skin.  And this light pulse is absorbed only by malaria parasites because of the wavelength we use. And in response to this short light pulse, the parasite literally explodes,” he said. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Corruption Probe Pummels Turkish Economy

December 31st 2013


Turkey's deepening political crisis between the government and judiciary over corruption allegations is impacting the country's stock market and currency. Concerns are growing about the financial and economic fall out.

The increasingly bitter struggle between the government and judiciary over a graft has pummeled Turkey's financial markets. The stock market has fallen nearly 20 percent while the Turkish lira has hit new lows.

Analyst Atilla Yesilada, of the Istanbul based political consulting firm Global Source Partners, says the full impact of the crisis will only be felt when financial markets return after the New Year's holiday period.

"In January or so, the world banking and investment community will return to their desks, trying to decide what to do with the Turkey conundrum. Unless there is a breakthrough in this crisis, I anticipate a lot of macro funds would sell," he said. "We don’t see a way out, How is it going to end? I mean nobody can speculate a decent scenario." Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

Advances And Setbacks In Global Health During 2013

December 31st 2013

child being vaccinated

From the fight against HIV/AIDS and polio to the spread of new deadly viruses, from the development of artificial-limb technology to new regulations allowing better access to pain killers in Ukraine -- 2013 had its share of highs and lows when it came to health and medicine.

2013 saw advances in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Scientists from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research announced in January that they had discovered how to modify a protein in HIV to protect against common infections. Associate Professor David Harrich said that if clinical trials prove successful, the treatment could be an effective way of disarming AIDS.

"This therapy is potentially a cure for AIDS. So it's not a cure for HIV infection, but it potentially could end the disease. This protein present in immune cells would help to maintain a healthy immune system so that patients would be able to handle normal infections," Harrich said.

In another potential breakthrough, scientists announced in March that a baby born with HIV appears to have been cured after very early treatment with standard drug therapy. More tests need to be carried out to determine if the treatment could have the same effect on other children, but the Mississippi child had no signs of infection after about a year off HIV drugs.

On the polio front, outbreaks in Pakistan and Syria threatened to derail efforts to eradicate the highly infectious disease. In Pakistan, one of the three countries where polio remains endemic, opposition from Islamic militants has hampered efforts to immunize children, with vaccination teams kidnapped or murdered in some cases. Read more ..

The Way We Are

From The U.S. To Russia, 2013 Was The Year LGBT Rights Went Global

December 31st 2013

Brazilian gay pride on parade

Yelena Goltsman describes June 30, 2013, as one of the best days of her life -- and also one of the worst.

On the one hand, it was the day that she and other Russian-speaking members of New York's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community debuted the first-ever Russian float in the city's annual Gay Pride parade.

The parade came just days after landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings bolstering the right of same-sex couples to marry. Goltsman, who had immigrated from Soviet Ukraine years before coming out in New York, said she was "elated" to be recognized as equal with fellow American citizens.

But on the other hand, for the parade's Russian-speakers, there was a darker side as well. Russian President Vladimir Putin had chosen the same day to sign a law prohibiting gay propaganda, a sweeping setback in a country that had decriminalized homosexuality 20 years earlier. At such moments, "it's very difficult to live in both worlds," Goltsman says. "The parade and the signing of this document happened on the same day. You can't describe it any other way than bittersweet." Read more ..

The EMP Threat

The Threat from the Gulf of Mexico

December 31st 2013

Minneapolis skyline

If you live near the Gulf of Mexico, you are the front line to an emerging existential threat to all Americans. The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a nuclear weapon exploded a hundred miles above the U.S. could kill 60-90 percent of all Americans. Though efforts in 2013 made progress in gaining awareness of this key problem, much remains to be done to get the powers that be to address this well-known threat that could be launched by Iran or terrorists from a ship in the Gulf. 

It is a fact that the EMP created by a single nuclear weapon exploded a hundred miles above the United States could lead to the death of several hundred million Americans. This kind of attack could be delivered by Iran or terrorist groups. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

America's Love Affair With “Technowar“

December 31st 2013

Military Hardware on Display

Barack Obama has become the “drone warrior-in-chief.” As president, he has rejected bogging down U.S. ground forces in protracted, perhaps unwinnable wars, in favor of unleashing modern technology that kills terrorists without exposing American soldiers to peril. It is a controversial strategy. Conservatives accuse Obama of moral amnesia. They emphasize the hypocrisy of the Nobel Laureate directly controlling a campaign of “assassination by remote control.” Many liberals simply stress the immorality of his actions. They recoil from their president launching a rain of death from the skies, breaking international law and undermining the sovereignty of a supposed ally to boot.

Viewed outside the parameters of the today’s intense partisan politics, however, Obama’s emphasis on drones is not particularly novel. Presidents have often concentrated on “technowar”: using new innovations, from air power to smart bombs, in order to avoid the high casualties associated with deploying a massive ground army. They have invariably done so for one reason above all others: a clear sense that the public will no longer support a foreign policy dependent on a type of war that results in large numbers of U.S. casualties. Read more ..

Haverford College Joins Chorus Against ASA Boycott of Israel

December 30th 2013

Although Haverford College is not an institutional member of the American Studies Association, we write to express our opposition to their proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions because such an action is antithetical to the full expression of academic freedom. We fully support the statement issued by the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities in opposition to the boycott, which holds that “Efforts to address political issues, or to address restrictions on academic freedom, should not themselves infringe upon academic freedom.” We also acknowledge that individual members of our community have the right to their own opinions, including the right to support the actions of the ASA.

Daniel Weiss is President of Haverford College. His letter is cosigned by Provost Kimberly Benston, Dean Martha Denney, Assistant Vice President for College Communications Chris Mills, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Dick Wynn, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Jess Lord, Chief Investment Officer Mike Casel, Chief Information Officer Joe Spadaro, and Chief of Staff Jesse Lytle.

The Race for Batteries

Batteries Can Now be Viewed Microscopically in Action

December 30th 2013

Researchers have developed a way to microscopically view battery electrodes while they are bathed in wet electrolytes, mimicking realistic conditions inside actual batteries. While life sciences researchers regularly use transmission electron microscopy to study wet environments, this time scientists have applied it successfully to rechargeable battery research.

This is good news for scientists studying battery materials under dry conditions. The work showed that many aspects can be studied under dry conditions, which are much easier to use. However, wet conditions are needed to study the hard-to-find solid electrolyte interphase layer, a coating that accumulates on the electrode's surface and dramatically influences battery performance. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

International Olympic Committee Reassures World about Terrorism in Russia

December 30th 2013

Chechen Islamist militants

The International Olympic Committee says it remains confident the upcoming Winter Games in Sochi will be “safe and secure” despite terrorist bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd that have killed more than 30 people.

The IOC says its president, Thomas Bach, has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing condolences for the Volgograd attacks and stating that he remains "certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all the participants of the Olympic Games."

Monday, a suspected suicide attack demolished a crowded trolley bus in Volgograd, some 650 kilometers northeast of Sochi, which will host the 2014 Winter Olympics in February. The attack came one day after a deadly suicide bombing at the city’s main railway station.

Russian authorities have increased security in and around the southern city. Read more ..

The Edge of the Universe

Could The Universe Really Be a Hologram?

December 30th 2013

protoplanetary disk

A team of physicists has provided some of the clearest evidence yet that our universe could be just one big projection.

In 1997, theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena proposed that an audacious model of the Universe in which gravity arises from infinitesimally thin, vibrating strings could be reinterpreted in terms of well-established physics. The mathematically intricate world of strings, which exist in nine dimensions of space plus one of time, would be merely a hologram: the real action would play out in a simpler, flatter cosmos where there is no gravity.

Maldacena's idea thrilled physicists because it offered a way to put the popular but still unproven theory of strings on solid footing—and because it solved apparent inconsistencies between quantum physics and Einstein's theory of gravity. It provided physicists with a mathematical Rosetta stone, a “duality,” that allowed them to translate back and forth between the two languages, and solve problems in one model that seemed intractable in the other and vice versa. But although the validity of Maldacena's ideas has pretty much been taken for granted ever since, a rigorous proof has been elusive. Read more ..

Egypt on Edge

Bleak Prospects for Egypt's Forthcoming New Constitution

December 30th 2013

As Egypt prepares to vote on a constitution that could prove economically ruinous or, at best, ineffectual, Washington and its regional allies should discuss ways of encouraging Cairo to pursue much-needed reforms.

Egypt's new draft constitution reflects the coalition of leftist political parties and entrenched state actors that helped oust President Muhammad Morsi from power in July. In the short run, the strength of this coalition -- and its ability to achieve a convincing mandate in the January constitutional referendum -- will determine whether the political transition can move forward. In the longer run, however, Egypt's outlook remains bleak: either the massive state spending that the new constitution mandates will be enforced and thereby wreak economic havoc, or the charter will not be enforced, in which case the country will continue to be governed by an unreliable legal system. Read more ..

Saudi Arabia on Edge

Saudi Double-Duty Suppressing Terrorism and Arab Spring

December 30th 2013

The oil kingdom is codifying current legal practices that do not distinguish between terrorists and nonviolent activists.

King Abdullah is expected to decree a new "penal system for crimes of terrorism and its financing" in the coming days. This comes on the heels of amendments to the country's criminal procedure law earlier this month.

The terrorism crimes legislation passed December 16 by the Saudi cabinet defines terrorism as "disturbing public order," "endangering national unity," and "defaming the state or its status," among other endeavors. A criminal procedure law change that came into effect December 6 legalizes indefinite detention of prisoners without charge or trial. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

The Increasingly Sharp Islamist Differences Besetting Turkey

December 30th 2013

Turkish military parade with flags

The news last week about a corruption scandal in Turkey seems on the surface a traditional case of prosecutors ferreting out wrongdoers in high places. But the turmoil that threatens Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has been a long time coming and is the most public manifestation of a struggle between Turkey's two main Islamic-conservative factions hitherto united under the governing party: the prime minister's Justice and Development Party, known as AKP, and the influential, popular Gulen movement.

The past year has already been challenging for Mr. Erdogan. Demonstrations that began in May grew out of anger over plans to develop Istanbul's Gezi Park and were a liberal affair, challenging the prime minister's increasingly autocratic rule. The Gezi Park occupants would seem to have little in common with the Gulen movement, an opaque, Sufi-inspired group known for its Islamic piety and, until recently, its support for Mr. Erdogan. But the Gezi and Gulen movements are now de facto, if not actual, partners with similar aims: resisting Mr. Erdogan's near-total power. Read more ..

Book Review

Financing Anti-Israel Flames

December 30th 2013

Financing the Flames

Financing the Flames: How Tax-exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terror in Israel. Edwin Black. Dialog Press, 2013. 288 pp.

At a recent meeting with Fatah leaders in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated what Israel and Israel’s true supporters have been claiming is his position for a very long time: “We don’t accept the Jewish state or the Jewishness of the state.… This is something that we won’t accept.”

This is a position taken by Palestinian and Moslem leaders throughout the Middle East since Israel was declared a country in 1948. The news is that it fails to raise eyebrows or concern among the liberal media and those who profess to support Israel while claiming that Israel is the obstacle to peace in the region.

When news reports claimed Egypt’s closure of tunnels used to smuggle weapons and other goods into the Gaza strip caused monthly losses of $250 million to Gaza’s economy, all that was heard was that commerce and trade was cut off, not that weapons and munitions trafficking was halted.

More recently, Knesset Deputy Speaker Danny Danon called for an end to funding of the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it genuinely stops funding terrorism. Danon spoke as an investigation found that the PA has given a $50,000 grant to each of the 52 convicted terrorists released by Israel as part of a deal to encourage the PA to pursue peace negotiations. The released prisoners, many of whom were convicted of killing Israeli civilians, are said to have also been assigned senior positions within the PA government.

Edwin Black, in “Financing the Flames,” published on Nov. 1, outlines a troubling pattern by Jewish groups such as the New Israel Fund which claim to be supportive of Israel. The book shows that there is a broad consensus of Israeli military men and Knesset members that the New Israel Fund (NIF) and its NGO grantees are systematically destabilizing the Israel Defense Forces.


Automotive Edge

Sales of Stop-Start Vehicles Will Grow to 55 Million Annually in Nine Years

December 30th 2013

Worldwide sales of Stop-start vehicles (SSVs) will grow from 8.8 million in 2013 to 55.4 million in 2022 according to a new report from market intelligence analyst Navigant Research.

SSVs, which eliminate idling by shutting off the engine when the vehicle is stationary and restarting it automatically when it is time to move, offer a portion of the fuel economy benefits of hybrid vehicles at a fraction of the cost premium.

Having proved popular with consumers because of its better fuel economy and the engine silence when it is stopped at an intersection, stop-start technology is seen as a low-cost and highly beneficial investment for auto manufacturers. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Five Weeks After Obama's Nuclear Deal with Iran

December 30th 2013

Simurgh booster

As the P5+1 nuclear negotiation with Iran was taking shape, Secretary of State John Kerry was irritated by the discomfort shown by Congress, Israel and the Gulf States of both Iran and of the Administration's decision making process. "We are not blind and I don't think we're stupid," he told "Meet the Press" on 10 November.

On 24 November, with the deal done, he crowed on CNN's "State of the Union," "I believe that from this day, Israel is safer." He added, "We are going to expand the amount of time in which they can break out… have insights to their program that we didn't have before. Israel, if you didn't have these things, would be seeing Iran to continue on a daily basis to narrow the breakdown (sic) time." Read more ..

Counting Palestinians

The Unique Tragedy of Palestinian Refugees

December 30th 2013

Click to select Image

UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, is tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees. The films, pictures, slides and prints the organization has collected on the refugees' plight will now be displayed in Jerusalem's Old City in an exhibit entitled "The Long Journey," which will then tour Europe and North America. The images, available online, are heartbreakingly powerful and emotive.

Like all refugee stories, Palestinian stories of displacement and loss needs to be told. The question is what lessons one takes out of it. For Israel, as many prominent Israeli intellectuals, historians and politicians have argued for decades, the Palestinian plight is one that must be confronted and acknowledged with honesty. Read more ..

South Sudan on Edge

U.S. Commits Troops to South Sudan

December 30th 2013

Click to select Image

According to comments made by two unnamed military officials on December 23, approximately 150 U.S. Marines will soon be sent to South Sudan. The troops will provide additional security for the U.S. Embassy in Juba and help evacuate Americans following an eruption of violence in the world's newest nation. Soldiers will also be sent to neighboring states to ensure the safety of American missions and displaced citizens.

The announcement comes after three American Osprey CV-22 were attacked after trying to evacuate U.S. citizens from the central city of Bor. During the incident gunfire injured four U.S. troops as they approached a UN base where the Americans had gathered for protection. A subsequent government mission successfully removed all Americans from Bor without further incident.

Fighting broke out in South Sudan on December 15th after a coup attempt against the President Salva Kiir. The country's military then split along ethnic and political lines, with many ethnic Dinka adhering to President Kiir and ethnic Neur following former Vice President Riek Machar. Rebels lead by Machar, the alleged coup leader, quickly consolidated power in much of the country. Most notably, the central government no longer controls the northern regional capital of Bentiu. Read more ..

The Arab Winter

"Arab Spring" Delusions

December 30th 2013

Egypt Riots #1

In the Arab-Islamic Political Culture rumors are an integral part of social activity that quickly become absolute truth that cannot be challenged. It has to do with exaggerations, flights of fancy and especially, in a society that believes in conspiracies… every date is important, remembering everything and forgiving nothing. This is a society wherein the lie is an essential component of behavior and lying is endorsed by religious sage.

Yet, from the beginning of the uprisings in the Middle East, the media has disseminated the idea — as if the internet, Facebook, and Twitter have produced a new situation — of a young Arab generation that adopts Western ideals and yearns for democratic values, civil rights, and freedoms. The code name for this phenomenon that has become known worldwide is the “Arab Spring,” an analogy of the “Spring of Nations” in the Europe of 1948. The question is whether these hopes and aspirations are true, and the Middle East has really been transformed according to the will of the people, or perhaps this is just another wishful thinking, a mirror image, a cultural ignorance of Western leaders? Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

PA Promotes Murder at a Cultural Event

December 30th 2013

At a Palestinian Authority event under the auspices of Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, with the participation of the Minister of Culture, the Palestinian Authority portrayed murder as a positive act. The event ended with PA Minister of Culture Anwar Abu Aisha honoring a number of released terrorist murderers by inviting them on stage and awarding them PA plaques of honor -- plaques that show a map of "Palestine," denying the existence of Israel.

It is documented that the PA uses cultural events to honor terrorists. PA TV ad announcing this event read, "Under the auspices of Mahmoud Abbas, Ramallah's Youth Club is honored to invite you to the 5th Festival of the Heritage of the Fathers."

During the program, a play was performed by Palestinian youth. The actors in the play are divided into two rival camps of Hamas and Fatah supporters. They end up throwing away their Fatah and Hamas flags, uniting under the PA flag. They then shoot and kill all the "Israelis." Among the dead bodies of the Israelis, they find a Palestinian who had been spying for Israel. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Turkey: The End of a Geopolitical Model

December 30th 2013

Turk flags

Whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan survives the current crisis, the legend of "The Turkish model" is dead. The implications of the loss of Turkey's image abroad, particularly in the Islamic world, may be far more important than the explosion of corruption scandals which always cynical Turkish voters may take in their stride.

But the possibility that Turkey could be the template for a predominantly Muslim, democratic, prosperous, stable society has failed after more than a half century when it was a highly vaunted prototype. The longer-term implications of that failure reach far beyond what happens to 70 million Turks and the 10 million Turkish immigrants in Europe. It goes to the heart of what Samuel P. Huntington called the clash of civilizations, and the long-sought modernization of Afro-Asian societies where 1.3 billion Muslims live. Read more ..

Debunking False Assertions in NY Times on Hillel

December 30th 2013

On Sunday, December 29, The New York Times published an article regarding the “Open Hillel” vote, which took place three weeks ago at Swarthmore College. It is teased on the front page and appears on page 21 of the A-section; it is also available online. As you know, there have been many articles on this topic, and we expect more. Although this article has been in the works for weeks, the Times does little more than repeat claims made in other publications by a handful of students. Instead of seizing the opportunity to look deeply into this issue, the Times took the easy way and turned its story into a simplistic discussion of free speech on campus and conflict among millennial Jews and their elders.

This article couldn’t be more wrong.

I spoke to the reporter for nearly an hour. David Eden also spoke with her several times. As you can see, we both are briefly quoted in comparison to the few students who are showcased. Information was sent refuting the alleged Harvard incident, the Swarthmore vote (including that only seven out of a 14-member student board voted “unanimously”), and the alleged Binghamton College incident (which was noted).

This article took the position that Hillel “whose core mission is to keep the next generation of Jews in the fold, says that under its auspices one thing is not open to debate: Those who reject or repudiate Israel have no place.”

Hillel has never said any such thing, and the Times knows it.

First, Hillel’s “core mission,” clearly expressed on our website and repeated to the Times reporter several times, is to build an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.  We are pursuing this mission vigorously every day.  More importantly, our guidelines on Israel refer explicitly to rejecting partnerships with organizations and speakers that seek to harm or destroy Israel.  Nowhere does Hillel declare that any Jewish student has “no place” at Hillel, nor would I or anyone associated with Hillel International say such a thing.

As we have said many times, Hillel welcomes all students, Jewish and non-Jewish, to discuss and debate topics that are sensitive on many topics, including Israel. We welcome students who have a diverse range of political views and who may be aligned with a broad range of political organizations to talk about a wide variety of issues. We are an open, accepting, educational, humanistic organization, and any suggestion to the contrary is false and a disservice to the student and professional leaders that make Hillel such a special place on 550 campuses across five continents. 

The Times reported that a “nationwide online petition in support of the Swarthmore Hillel’s rejection of [the Hillel Israel] guidelines has gathered 1,200 signatures.” It was pointed out to the reporter that there are approximately 400,000 Jewish students on American college campuses, nearly 20 million college students overall, and that a thousand or so names, many from non-students or signed “anonymous,” was not a large number. That fact was ignored. When it was pointed out that there is no groundswell of support for “Open Hillel,” it was brushed aside and not included.

Where Hillel draws the line, and what we have said consistently, as reported in the Timesand elsewhere, is that “‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances.” The Times also noted our Israel guidelines that spell out that Hillel “will not host or work with speakers or groups that deny the right of Israel to exist; “delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel”; support boycotts, divestment or sanctions against Israel; or “foster an atmosphere of incivility.”

This is hardly a policy of censorship or free speech. As Alan M. Dershowitz said to theTimes: “I don’t think this is a free-speech issue. The people who want divestment and boycotts have plenty of opportunity to speak on campus. The question is a branding one. You can see why Hillel does not want its brand to be diluted.” In 2010, Hillel developed its Israel guidelines precisely because every responsible organization needs to establish certain rules. Ours, created with a wide group of stakeholders, are appropriate and we intend to maintain them.

I was quoted correctly in the Times saying, “If we’re an organization that is committed to building Jewish identity and lifelong connections to the Jewish world and to Israel, then we certainly have to draw lines.”

We have drawn that line. We are unwavering.

Hillel will continue to reach out to all college students who have questions about Israel. Some have deeply held disagreements with Israel’s policies and still consider themselves Zionists. Others mistake their deeply held disagreements with the policies of the Israeli government as anti-Zionism, while others are swept up in the anti-Zionism of friends or faculty, or simply in the passion of being young and on campus. With all students, our professional and student leaders will work heartily to provide knowledge and build trust. But there are some who are simply not interested in any such thing. We will still welcome them as students for Shabbat dinner and other events, but we cannot and will not let them guide our programming.

Hillel loves Eretz Israel because it is part of our Jewish identity. It is our job, together with other Jewish organizations and leaders, to encourage Jewish college students to embrace this love of Jewish life, learning and Israel as part of the character and self-identities they are building while in college. We will continue to take all necessary steps to support and promote this mission.

Egypt's Second Revolution

Muslim Brotherhood Supporters Torch University Buildings During Riot

December 30th 2013

Egypt army protest

An Egyptian university student was killed in Cairo when members and supporters of the radical Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, attacked campus police and torched university buildings on Saturday. Egyptian news organizations are blaming the student protesters for large fires set in two buildings on the campus of Cairo's al-Azhar University. Last week the Muslim Brotherhood was officially designated a "terrorist organization" and banned by the Egyptian government.

The deadly conflict between the Brotherhood and the Egyptian government began just after Egypt's military ousted President Mohammed Morsi, who is a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi was deposed and then arrested in July. The campus fires, which were ignited on Saturday morning, were finally brought under control in the afternoon by campus security police who had to fight the fire while attempting to quell the riot. However, examinations for several classes were rescheduled for a later date by school officials.


Jewry on Edge

Canada Demands Firing of Racist Anti-Israel U.N. Official

December 29th 2013

Richard Falk

Canada has called for one of the viciously hateful and antisemitic figures in the international establishment to be fired.

Richard Falk, a U.N. Special Rapporteur who specializes in racist and defamatory statements against Israel, the Jews, and the U.S., including 9/11 conspiracy theories, recently upped the ante still further by calling Israel "genocidal" on Russian television.

He has also said that "slouching toward nothing less than a Palestinian holocaust," explicitly equating the Jewish state to the Nazi regime.

Canada, however, has proven courageous enough to call Falk's bluff. Defying the U.N.'s adoration of all things anti-Israel, its foreign minister said that Falk should be fired Read more ..

Book Review

State of Failure Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State

December 29th 2013

State of Failure Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State. Jonathan Schanzer. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 256 pp.

'If you build it, they will come," was the line that made Kevin Costner's character in Field of Dreams famous, as his Ray Kinsella was called upon to build a baseball field that would allow Shoeless Joe Jackson and the seven other players banned in the 1919 Black Sox scandal to play again. The phrase should be modified in this key way: "If you build it to that end, actual work needs to be put into any enterprise to make it alive and sustainable" – especially if we are talking about state-building.

In the Palestinian case study, Palestinians have attempted to circumvent the building phase in favor of "instant statehood," that is to argue that because we think we should have a state, we will.

Enter Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who specializes in Palestinian politics. In his latest book, State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State, he methodically details the corruption, lack of leadership and countless excuses by the Palestinians to avoid building a viable state, in favor of Jewish rejectionism at large. As the author correctly describes Arafat's leadership, "While Arafat was revered by his people for almost singlehandedly focusing the world's attention on the Palestinian cause from the 1960's until his death, the problem of corruption would, to some extent, define his legacy."

Historically, the notion of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state existing alongside Israel was never part of Arafat's vision or the Palestinian worldview at large.

Furthermore, Palestinians continuously rejected the notion of a single bi-national state. Palestinian society has never seen Jewish sovereignty or Israel's existence as a "right"; the only right in their narrative is their sole connection to the land. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

An Uncertain Future for Afghanistan, says National Intelligence Estimate

December 29th 2013

The Washington Post says an intelligence report on Afghanistan predicts gains made by the United States and its allies will be lost by 2017, with the Taliban and other terrorist groups becoming increasingly influential as international forces leave. The paper reported on December 29 that the new National Intelligence Estimate says Afghanistan will quickly fall into chaos if Washington and Kabul do not sign a security pact to keep an international military contingent in the country beyond 2014.

The newspaper quotes one U.S. official familiar with the report as saying that without a continuing troop presence and financial support, the intelligence assessment "suggests the situation would deteriorate very rapidly." But the newspaper said other officials felt the report was overly pessimistic and did not take into account progress made by Afghanistan's security forces. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Deadly Terrorist Attack Kills 16 in Russia; Islamists suspected

December 29th 2013

Russian officials say they believe a female suicide bomber caused an explosion that killed at least 16 people and wounded dozens on December 29 at the entrance to a train station in Volgograd. The latest attack in southern Russia occurred about 650 kilometers northeast of Sochi, which will host the Winter Olympics in February. Russia’s federal investigative committee says the bomber walked into a busy train station in Volgograd and detonated explosives just in front of metal detectors.

Vladimir Markin, who heads Russia's Investigative Committee, said that this explosion was the equivalent of 10 kilograms of TNT. According to VOA News, Markin said there would have been many more victims if the so-called guarding system at the train station hadn't worked. He pointed out that security did not allow the suicide bomber to get through the metal detector into the waiting hall where at the time there were lots of people because three trains were late. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

The Essential Linkage between Iran and the Conflict in Syria

December 29th 2013

Assad and Ahmadinejad

Middle Easterners fear the White House will return to bad habits by dropping its demands on Syria in order to appease Iran.

Back in 2006, during a particularly low point in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the congressionally mandated Iraq Study Group issued a report in which the central contentious proposition was that "all key issues in the region are inextricably linked." Accordingly, to stem the deterioration in Iraq and "achieve its goals" in the Middle East, the report posited the U.S. would have to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Seven years on, while the conceit linking Iraq to the Arab-Israeli peace process is no longer relevant, the concept of linkage appears to be making a comeback -- this time in the context of Iran and war in Syria. During a recent trip to Lebanon, a concern I heard repeatedly voiced was that if Tehran played ball and signed onto a nuclear deal, the Obama administration might be prepared to acknowledge Iranian interests in Syria and drop its demand that President Bashar al-Assad step down.

The prospect of somehow tying Iran's nuclear file to ceasefire talks in Syria was of great concern to many of the Middle Easterners I spoke to. And for good reason -- linking international efforts to roll back Iran's nuclear program in order to achieve a ceasefire in Syria would be ill advised.

To be sure, Iran and Syria are inexorably connected. For more than three decades, the Shiite theocracy in Tehran and the Alawite regime in Damascus have been strategic partners. And today, Iran is the leading supporter of the Assad regime, providing the weapons, technical assistance, and troops that have enabled Assad to combat the insurgency.

But Iran cannot serve as a productive interlocutor in Syria. Regardless of whether the "first step" nuclear framework agreement with Iran progresses to a full-scale deal, Tehran views the survival of a friendly regime in Damascus to be a priority. Syria is the gateway of Iranian influence in the Levant. If Assad was toppled, he would likely be replaced with a Sunni regime hostile to Iran that would sever the key supply line between Tehran and its Lebanese Shiite militia proxy, Hezbollah. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Obama Courts Iran's Atomic Mullahs

December 29th 2013

The United States’ policy toward Iran is seemingly dictated by Tehran. On December 7, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned, “If Congress adopts sanctions … The entire deal is dead. We do not like to negotiate under duress.” Zarif’s threat worked magic. President Obama and his secretary of state John Kerry embarked on twisting Congress’s arms to stop the bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which aimed to close “loopholes in the current sanctions on Iran.”

The White House, on behalf of the mullahs, succeeded to kill the bill, which would have applied only “after the six-month negotiations period-specified in an interim deal reached last month with Iran-expired and only if Iran had been found in violation of its obligations.” Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Ha'aretz Debases Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and Falls Further into Disrepute

December 29th 2013

Isi Libler

I rubbed my eyes in disbelief this week when I read an article prominently featured on Haaretz website entitled “The Warsaw Ghetto Myth”. The story asserts that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the largest single revolt by Jews under Nazi occupation, was extremely limited in in scope and duration. The most obscene aspect of the article is the allegation that the fighters were responsible for the death of the 50,000 Jews in the ghetto who had not yet been deported.

This unquestionably distorted interpretation of events typifies the historical revisionism to which Haaretz is predisposed, not only with regard to post-Zionism but now also to Jewish history. That such an article is given prominence in an Israeli daily newspaper with a wide internet English readership reflects adversely on us all.

The author, Eli Gat, is a Holocaust survivor who, in 2009 privately published a shoddy book "Not Just Another Holocaust" describing his sufferings and alluding to the revisionist nonsense incorporated in his current article. His book was completely ignored and very few people would have even heard his name until Haaretz published his article.

In his article Gat dishonors the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and diminishes its historical and symbolic significance. He insists that there were fewer than 700 ghetto fighters and that the revolt lasted a mere two days, after which time many fighters fled. Gat has the gall to repudiate the accepted view that the most significant portion of the uprising took place over the course of a month and specifically dismisses the assertion confirming this by the late Professor Israel Gutman, a respected Holocaust historian and participant in the uprising. Read more ..

Economic Jihad

The American Studies Association: Where Foolishness and Ignorance Collide

December 29th 2013

American Studies Association logo

The American Studies Association, a group of nearly 5,000 professors of the subject, has voted by a large margin to boycott all Israeli institutions of higher education, the New York Times reports. The path of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement (BDS) is not exactly paved with significant victories, but the ASA, which apparently prides itself on its deep understanding of academic freedom and the details of international law, is very confident of its resolution’s importance:

“The resolution is in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom, and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians,” the American Studies Association said in a statement released Monday. The statement cited “Israel’s violations of international law and U.N. resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights,” and other factors. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Egyptian Army Foils Hamas Sinai attack

December 29th 2013

Gaza Qasam Rocket

The Egyptian army said Wednesday it had foiled a plan by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas to attack a strategic security building in North Sinai, where militants have increased activity in recent months.

A member of the movement revealed the plan when the army interrogated him, military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali said in a statement.

Ali said the army arrested "a Palestinian belonging to Hamas who illegally entered Egypt... in a car with North Sinai license plate".

During questioning "he confessed he planned to blow up (his car) in front of a strategic security building," Ali said. In October, Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya had denied reports his movement was involved in fighting in the Sinai where militant attacks on security forces have increased since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi on July 3. Read more ..

The Edge of Climate Change

"Dark Money" Funds Climate Change Denial Effort

December 29th 2013

Money Stack

The largest, most-consistent money fueling the climate denial movement are a number of well-funded conservative foundations built with so-called "dark money," or concealed donations, according to an analysis released Friday afternoon.

The study, by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, is the first academic effort to probe the organizational underpinnings and funding behind the climate denial movement.

It found that the amount of money flowing through third-party, pass-through foundations like DonorsTrust and Donors Capital, whose funding cannot be traced, has risen dramatically over the past five years.

In all, 140 foundations funneled $558 million to almost 100 climate denial organizations from 2003 to 2010. Meanwhile the traceable cash flow from more traditional sources, such as Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, has disappeared. Read more ..

The Moon on Edge

Our First Exomoon May Have Been Sighted

December 29th 2013

full moon

Exoplanets are almost old hat to astronomers, who by now have found more than 1,000 such worlds beyond the solar system. The next frontier is exomoons—moons orbiting alien planets—which are much smaller, fainter and harder to find. Now astronomers say they may have found an oddball system of a planet and a moon floating free in the galaxy rather than orbiting a star.

The system showed up in a study using micro lensing, which looks for the bending of starlight due to the gravitational pull of an unseen object between a star and Earth. In this case the massive object might well be a planet and a moon. But the signal is not very clear, the researchers acknowledge, and could instead represent a dim star and a lightweight planet. “An alternate star-plus-planet model fits the data almost as well” as the planet-plus-moon explanation, the scientists reported in a paper that was posted this week on the preprint site arXiv. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.

"I was excited by this paper," says astronomer Jean Schneider of the Paris Observatory, who was not involved in the research. Exomoons have "become fashionable these days," he adds, and are one of his personal "holy grails." Schneider wrote a paper in 1999 on how to detect exomoons using an alternative method, called transiting. (The transit technique looks for the dimming of a star's light caused when a planet or moon passes in front of the star from Earth's perspective). Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Author Edwin Black Answers Questions About Financing the Flames

December 29th 2013

Edwin Black

Investigative author Edwin Black details how American taxpayers help fund Palestinian terrorists in his new book, ”Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terror in Israel.”

“As soon as a Palestinian terrorist murders an innocent civilian, blows up a bus, or commits any other act of terrorism in Israel, he or she goes on an official Palestinian Authority salary,” Black explained to The Daily Caller. “That salary level follows a schedule of compensation that rises dramatically with the number of people killed and the amount of carnage inflicted.”

“These are the best compensation packages in the PA, dwarfing the wage of an ordinary worker,” he continued. “Hence, you can go from rags to riches in Palestine by murdering a family or firebombing a bus. Approximately $3 million to $7 million each month is paid in this program, constituting approximately 6 percent of the PA’s annual budget. Since the PA is constantly operating at a deficit, this cash supply is dependent upon donor countries such as the United States, the UK, France and Norway. Their foreign ministries and our State Department know about this terror financing, but our congressmen do not, nor does the American public — until now.”

See TheDC’s extensive interview with Black about his book below:

Why did you write the book?

For years, I’ve been following the misconduct of charitable organizations, such as the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation, which engaged in genocidal eugenics in the U.S. and worldwide. A decade ago, I exposed how The Ford Foundation was funneling millions of dollars into anti-Jewish, anti-Israel hate groups in Durban, South Africa. When under pressure, The Ford Foundation pulled its funding from those groups. It re-routed the money to the New Israel Fund. For years, my editors have been asking me to look into the conduct and funding recipients of the New Israel Fund. I finally did, and I discovered that tax-subsidized charitable donations and taxpayer-funded foreign aid are fungibly financing a culture of confrontation, violence and even terrorism in Israel. The result of my effort has been a “newsbook” entitled “Financing the Flames” — a 77,000-word uncovering of how American tax money is achieving the exact opposite of our national intent in Israel.


Counting Palestinians

Correcting the Facts about Palestinian Refugees

December 29th 2013

UNRWA Refugee Camp

The Palestinian refugee issue has been dramatically misrepresented, distorting circumstances and numbers, in order to delegitimize the Jewish state.

According to the German Middle East expert, Fritz Grobba (Men and Powers in the Orient, pp. 194-7, 207-8, Berlin, 1957), the 1948 Palestinian leadership, headed by the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, wanted to apply Nazi methods to massacre Jews throughout the Middle East. In1941,the Mufti drafted a proposal requesting that Germany and Italy acknowledge the Arab right to settle “the Jewish problem” in Palestine and the Arab countries in accordance with national and racial Arab interests, similar to the practice employed to solve “the Jewish problem” in Germany and Italy. On Nov. 24, 1947, Acting Chairman of the (Palestinian) Arab Higher Committee, Jamal Al-Husseini, threatened: "Palestine shall be consumed with fire and blood," if the Jews get any part of it.  On April 16, 1948 Jamal Husseini told the UN Security Council: “The representative of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday that they were not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We did not deny this. We told the whole world that we were going to fight.” Read more ..

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